Mask of Perseus
Sir William Reid Dick
Signed Reid Dick
Bronze with dark brown and green patination
Height: 10" (26 cm)
Conceived circa 1920 and cast during the artist's lifetime
The present work was received with great success in both France and England. It was inspired by Greek mythology and depicts Perseus, the hero who beheaded the Gorgon Medusa and saved Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus. The feathers framing the face of the figure on the left-hand side are the only iconographic element that identify the subject, as Perseus was given an invisibility helmet in order to complete his mission by the goddess Athena. The helmet has often been depicted with wings in a very similar fashion to that of the god Hermes.
The piece’s delicate modelling is reminiscent of Alfred Gilbert’s, Edward Onslow Ford’s and George Frampton’s style of portraiture, fitting within the broad visual canon of the New Sculpture movement. However, instead of working on a full portrait, Reid Dick decided here to produce a mask, forcing the viewer to focus solely on the facial features of his subject, without adding any other element to his composition apart from the feathers.
Reid Dick’s decision might be related to the great public reception of his earlier work, the Mask of Androdus, which was sculpted by the artist between 1914 and 1918. The piece was shown at the Royal Academy in 1919 and immediately purchased by the Trustees of the Chantery Bequest for the TATE Gallery, where it is still housed today. Among other ‘masks’ by the sculptor, one should mention the portraits of Lady Diana Cooper (1921) and the ideal portrait of a boy (1919).